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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Premonition

Yoshimoto Banana

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To purchase The Premonition

Title: The Premonition
Author: Yoshimoto Banana
Genre: Novel
Written: 1988 (Eng. 2023)
Length: 110 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: The Premonition - US
The Premonition - UK
The Premonition - Canada
Presagio triste - Italia
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • Japanese titles: 哀しい予感
  • Translated by Asa Yoneda

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Our Assessment:

B : solid little novel

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times C 14/10/2023 Thu-Huong Ha
The NY Times Book Rev. . 22/10/2023 Maya Binyam
The Spectator . 7/10/2023 Genevieve Gaunt

  From the Reviews:
  • "(A) childlike simplicity pervades the book, and it is sweet -- until it becomes saccharine. (...) The characters move about in a dream-like state, but they never seem to transcend the fairy tale they live in. The novel takes a few steps toward more complex questions and ideas, but each trail goes cold as the story ultimately opts for sentimentality. (...) (T)here is an opportunity for an exploration of the nature and nuances of attraction and romantic love, but instead the novel remains vague and Yayoi becomes increasingly maudlin." - Thu-Huong Ha, The Japan Times

  • "There’s a matter-of-factness to Yoshimoto’s prose that would feel stultifying if it weren’t so mischievous." - Maya Binyam, The New York Times Book Review

  • "In a creative landscape that is increasingly homogenised by an Anglo-American style, it’s refreshing to pick up literature that has not lost its thisness. (...) The novel taps into anxiety about memory, childhood and the peculiar feeling that there’s a hidden truth about ourselves we’ve forgotten, and if only we took pains to find it we might finally feel at home." - Genevieve Gaunt, The Spectator

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Premonition is narrated by nineteen-year-old Yayoi. She lives with Mom and Dad and younger brother Tetsuo -- "the picture of a happy middle-class family, like you'd see in a Spielberg movie" -- but she also has no memories whatsoever of her childhood: "Not in my mind, or in photos -- nothing". The one other significant figure in her life -- even thought they: "only really saw each other at big family gatherings" -- is her thirty-year-old aunt Yukino, a teacher who lives alone and: "like a total eccentric".
       Yayoi likes her aunt and is drawn to her -- even more strongly now. Eventually, she runs away from home (as she puts it) and heads to her aunt's -- the beginning of a voyage that also leads her to confront the events from the past have shaped her life. Her aunt then effectively also runs away, and Yayoi goes off in search of her, together with Tetsuo -- and then also meeting a boyfriend of Yukino's. As this search leads Yayoi to the past that she had forgotten, her foundations shift underneath her until the picture of what happened when she was very young finally comes into focus.
       Matters are also complicated by the fact that Yayoi and Tetsuo are strongly drawn to one another -- to the extent that Yayoi admits: "My thoughts always ended up at the same place. If we weren't brother and sister ... If only". But it's not quite as creepy as it sounds: Tetsuo is her "nonbiological brother", as Yayoi was adopted into the family. And, as Yayoi describes at one point:

Tetsuo and I, as if by reflex, immediately reached into our minds and slipped into our sibling mode. We'd spent years building these characters, and they were so reliable we were able to face each other without feeling embarrassed or awkward at all.
       But Yayoi has to get beyond this character she built, and face what happened in the past -- which Yukino was also involved in (and has struggled with in her own, different way as well).
       The Premonition is a fairly simple story, a quest tale, in a way -- and comes complete with catharsis at the end: "nothing had been lost; only gained". Given the complexity of the relationships -- practically all of them aren't exactly what they seem at first (Mom and Dad aren't Yayoi's biological mother and father; Yukino isn't really Yayoi's aunt; Yukino's boyfriend was a student of hers; etc.) -- there's quite a bit the novel could have gone into deeper, but Yoshimoto effectively evokes Yayoi's sense of uncertainty and her path to a more stable foundation.
       A slim but solid work.

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 October 2023

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The Premonition: Reviews: Yoshimoto Banana: Other books by Yoshimoto Banana under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Popular Japanese author Yoshimoto Banana (よしもと ばなな; 吉本 ばなな; actually 吉本 真秀子) was born in 1964.

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